A 'youthful' approach to Aliyah

How to solve, all at once, the difficulties of Aliyah: acculturation, making a living, learning the language, making friends, and more.

Hillel Fendel ,

Lone soldiers making aliyah
Lone soldiers making aliyah
Flash 90

Article 5 in Arutz Sheva's aliya series

If there's one thing that has emerged so far from this special series of Aliyah articles and many of their talkbacks, it is that the sides are unmistakably clear: The "Israelis" say, "What are you waiting for? The situation in the West is terrible enough, and anyway, Israel is where we all belong!"

And then the others respond, "What do you think, it's so easy? We have jobs, we have kids of all ages who might not adjust, we have family here – there are just too many things to uproot!"

Quite obviously, both sides are right. As Rabbi Wallerstein said with a sigh: "We just don't belong here anymore…" – and at the same time, for many people it is simply too complicated to just pick up and leave their lives.

We can thus extrapolate that many Western Jews feel as follows: "Ideally, I would like to be living in Israel. But there are objective reasons that make it improbable at this point in my life. If I would have made the move earlier, before or right after I was married, or maybe even earlier than that, I would be there now, and so would my family and kids and job. Oh well…"

Much has been said about the futility of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So let's change the mold: Instead of bemoaning what we can't do because of what we did before, and then doing it again – let's get out of the cycle, and make sure it doesn't happen with our children!!

As parents, we must encourage our children to go to Israel for a year of study – and longer! That is, even those of us whose children already take the "gap year in Israel" route, we must not tell them, "Don't forget that after a year in Israel, you're returning for college! Just one year, you hear?"

In general, it does not seem logical for parents to say, "We made a mistake, and now we're all stuck, but we insist that you take the same route we did" – and certainly this is true when we face the need for massive change.


Yes – not only encourage them to go for a year of study, but to actively explore remaining for good!
Now that it's more indicated and attractive than ever to make Aliyah, parents must be open with their children: "We're happy we were able to give you opportunities that we ourselves didn't necessarily have, but it cost us a lot – and now we're unable to leave! So we encourage you to go to Israel now - when you are unburdened, when all that is holding us back is not holding you back!"

Yes – not only encourage them to go for a year of study, but to actively explore remaining for good!

This applies not only to post high school students, but even to those in 10th or 11th grades. Some highly successful Aliyah stories began in exactly this manner – and culminated with other siblings, and later even the parents, coming to stay as well!

What could be more rewarding for parents than to know that their children have succeeded in breaking out of a seemingly impermeable mold and setting their family on a new and better path!

Spending a year or two after high school in an Israeli yeshiva, kibbutz, or college program is, of course, a familiar part of Jewish life for many communities – even though for every student who takes advantage of this opportunity, so many more do not. With proper motivation, leadership, and communal support, many more high school graduates will spend their next year in Israel.

But what about high school age students? Is it realistic to expect parents to send their young teenage children for a year abroad?

The answer is most certainly yes, especially if the proper framework exists – and certainly if it is totally subsidized by the Israeli government and Jewish Agency! Check out, for instance, the highly-successful Naale program which has a boys' high school in Yeshivat Shaalvim, one for girls in Ulpanat Amana in Kfar Saba, and other high school programs as well.

And for those who wish to start off their important college years in Israel, that's also a wise move: Tuition is partially or wholly subsidized, and many universities offer programs specially geared to new immigrants. Visit this site.

Or might you wish to start integrating into Israeli society via the army or recognized volunteer work? Try out this for Army and National Service and this for Lone Soldiers program.

Moses told Pharaoh, "We're leaving Egypt, with our youth and our elders!" Not for naught did he begin with the youth, because that's how real change often happens. Now as well, they'll go first, and their families will follow afterwards. The difficulties of Aliyah – acculturation, making a living, learning the language, making friends, and more – can be greatly eased, if not obviated, with this switch in our thinking: "By sending our children to Israel, we're not losing them – we're gaining our family's future!"




top